WAD MADANI, Sudan: Attacks by Sudanese paramilitaries on Sunday sent hundreds of civilians fleeing a major city in Darfur, residents said as battles against the regular army intensify in the restive western region.
Darfur as well as Sudan’s capital Khartoum have borne the brunt of nearly four months of fighting between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces or RSF, led by rival generals vying for power.
One resident said that hundreds of people have been displaced from Nyala, Sudan’s second largest city and capital of South Darfur state, where “rockets are falling on houses.”
The war erupted in Khartoum on April 15 between the forces of army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and his former deputy, RSF commander Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo.
At least 3,900 people have been killed nationwide, according to a conservative estimate by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.
More than 4 million people have been uprooted from their homes, according to the UN refugee agency.
Witnesses said on Sunday that RSF paramilitaries had attacked Nyala with “dozens of military vehicles” and that “hundreds of residents are fleeing intense artillery fire.”
The vast region of Darfur has a bloody history.
It is where Sudan’s former President Omar Bashir in 2003 unleashed Arab tribal militia in a scorched-earth campaign to quash a rebellion against perceived inequalities.
It is a stronghold of the RSF which emerged from the Janjaweed militia that had spearheaded Bashir’s deadly onslaught.
Fighting in the latest conflict has concentrated on El-Geneina, the capital of West Darfur state, where the UN suspects that crimes against humanity have been committed.
Several sources allege there have been massacres of civilians and ethnically motivated killings in Darfur, attributed to paramilitary forces and allied militias.
Researchers at Yale University in the US say that at least 27 villages in Darfur have been razed to the ground by the RSF and its allies since April.
“The ferocity and volume of the violence at least equals the genocide in 2003-2004,” said Nathaniel Raymond of the Humanitarian Research Lab at the Yale School of Public Health.
“The RSF and allied militias are moving methodically and quickly without impediment. They chose the time and place and attack to liquidate civilian communities,” he said.
Fighting was also reported on Sunday in Khartoum’s battle-scarred sister city of Omdurman just across the Nile, where one resident reported “artillery fire.”